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What I Wish I Had Known as a Beginner Social Dancer

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I started social dancing in 2016 and have since learned a lot about dance, my body, following and leading, the social dance community and more. There’s tons more to learn but for now I wanted to share a list of things I wish I had known when I was starting out.

1. You really need to dance with your whole body.

This means you don’t just move your arms and legs, but you move your full body, play with where you look, take deep breaths, control the shape of your fingers, whip hair, express emotions etc. This does not only make you look good but also helps leaders to communicate their signals to their followers.

2. In order to master a move and feel comfortable with it you need to be doing it hundreds if not thousands of times.

Don’t underestimate the work that needs to be put in if you want to level up. I’d say practicing at home by yourself and taking part of choreography groups is a good way to practice, even if you’re doing social dance. (But remember that if you want to practice following or leading technique, the best way is to attend as many social dance parties as possible.)

3. Practice does make perfect but only if you’re practicing the right thing.

If not, you’re ingraining bad habits that are harder to fix later. Film yourself and watch it back to make sure you’re going in the right direction. You can delete the videos later if you don’t want to keep them.

4. Your arms and hands are actually so feathery light when connected to your dance partner.

And it’s STILL possible to lead and follow like that. There is a fine line between unresponsive noodle hands and a feathery light activation so it’s OK if it takes a while to master. (Read more about leading softly.)

5. Feeling pain or discomfort in your body during a dance or after parties is NOT normal.

You should stop whatever is causing it and seek help. It could be that your technique is wrong – then ask your teacher and get a private class. It may also be that the person you’re dancing with doesn’t have correct technique – in that case protect yourself and don’t follow through with the dance move or don’t dance with that person again if they keep making you uncomfortable. (Read more about protecting yourself as a follower.)

6. Saying no to a dance invitation is perfectly fine.

If saying no helps to keep you safe, comfortable and in a good mood for the party then go for it. Nobody wants to receive pity dances either.

7. To become an advanced dancer you need additional strength and mobility training aka conditioning.

Going to dance classes, socials and festivals is not enough if your body is not capable of executing the moves that are being taught there. (Read more about conditioning)

Let me know one thing you wish you had known as a beginner social dancer down in the comments!

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